Monday, October 26, 2009

119. The Scarlet Pimpernel


By: Emmuska Orczy
Rated: 4 Stars
From: Library, Unabaridged Audio Book

Years ago the 1934 movie version of this book was on TV and I fell in love with both the story and the British actor Leslie Howard who did such a marvelous job of playing the Scarlet Pimpernel/ Sir Percy Blakeney as he seeks to help French aristocrats escape the guillotine during the French Revolution.

The style and writing is badly dated but the story is an excellent game of cat and mouse. Margaurite comes across as a stupid twit in the book but fares much better in the more modern movie versions where the character benefits from some badly needed updating.  Sir Percey however is wonderful as originally written.

The plot of the book is that , Blakeney adopts a masked identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel to remain anonymous as  he slips in and out of France to rescue people from their fate on the Guillotine. 

He's backed up by a league of 19 men who avow they are joining TSP in his endeavors for the thrill of the gamble, the sheer blood rushing ride of it all- that and the fact they are thumbing their nose at the French, which to British (and some of us Americans as well) is always fun!

The French, of course, detest this interference in their affairs and set out to trap and kill the Pimpernel at all costs. As part of his effort to deflect suspicion from himself, he plays the fool in every day life and he does it well. His own wife considers him a useless fop... and that's where the story really gets interesting.

His wife the expatriate Marguerite St. Just, now Lady Blakeney and the head of society in England is blackmailed by the evil Chauvelin, a revolutionary whohow has sworn to capture the Scarlett Pimpernell.  Margaurite puts him on the trail of the Pimpernel only to discover afterwards the identity of the Pimpernel herself.  Margaurite takes off to try to find her husband herself and warn him that his identity is known.

Will Chauvelin and the French Revolutionary Government find and kill the Pimpernel before she can find and save him?
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